Clay Cane is a New York City-based writer who is recognized for his contributions in journalism. Clay is a regular contributor for various print and online publications such as The Advocate and BET.com. He is the author of the highly anticipated novel Ball-Shaped World, which is a fictionalized account of the black and Latino ballroom scene. Also, he is the Entertainment Editor at BET.com and a member of New York Film Critics Online. He can be reached at claycane@gmail.com.


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    Monday, June 16, 2008

    I was talking with some friends recently and we all said we could not think of the last time we saw a good black movie -- that wasn't a comedy. Outside of biopics, the last black film I saw that really moved me was Brown Sugar or Love & Basketball—that was over six years ago!

    I couldn’t help but reminisce on the ‘90s. There were so many amazing films that came out during that time but are often overshadowed due to embarrassments like Sprung or Booty Call. Maybe not enough time has passed, but when we think of great films about black life we usually look to films from the seventies and some of the eighties.

    Also, the great thing about black films from the nineties is you always had an amazing soundtrack, not only did you see the film on the first day it opened, you got the soundtrack!

    Taking out the overall legend Spike Lee and biopics, here are some great black films from the nineties…

    10. Friday (1995)

    Yes, I know some people complained Ice Cube’s Friday was coonery, but I remember every person in the hood ran to see this film. It was a day in the life of two slackers, well-written, classic comedy and made Chris Tucker a star. Tucker’s performance was deeply criticized for “shucking n’ jiving”, but I saw no jiving—Tucker was your local neighborhood pot head that everyone knew and loathed.
    Memorable Quote: Smokey, “You got knocked the fuck out!”
    Song: “Keep Their Heads Ringin'” by Dr. Dre
    Grossed: $28,215,918

    9. Menace II Society (1993)

    The Hughes Brothers first film, Menace II Society was following a pattern of popular black gangster flicks of the time. However, with a great flashback storyline and breakthrough performances from a 22 year-old Jada Pinkett and an 18 year-old Larenz Tate, which would make the two black film favorites of the nineties, the film found its own voice.
    Memorable Quote: Jackee, “Bitch, fuck the forms! We need a doctor! He's bleeding to death over there!
    Song: “You Been Played” by Smooth… who remembers this one-hit wonder female rapper?
    Grossed: $27,912,072

    8. Juice (1992)

    How the hell did the creators of Juice pull off a psychology thriller with around the way boys? This movie is down right legendary, starring 2Pac as Bishop, a young kid hungry for the “juice”, which is street cred. Black filmmaker, Ernest Dickerson, managed to take a classic Hollywood plot line and place it in the hood.
    Memorable Quote: Bishop, “I got more control over your life than you do.”
    Song: “Don't Be Afraid” by Aaron Hall
    Grossed: $20,146,880

    7. Boomerang (1992)

    Boomerang is classic simply because of Grace Jones. I can watch her scenes non-stop, but it’s still great to see Eddie Murphy in his “bad-ass” days and Halle Berry pre the nose job. The movie was well-done, probably my favorite romantic comedy of all time.
    Song: "I'd Die Without You" by P.M. Dawn and "End Of The Road" by Boyz II Men—despicable neither one of these songs received an Oscar nod for best song from a film!
    Memorable Quote: Angela, “I'm sick and tired of men using love as if it's some disease you just catch. Love should have brought your ass home last night!” and of course, Strange, “You're going to turn down this pussy?! Nobody turns down this pussy!”
    Grossed: $131,052,444

    6. Jason's Lyric (1994)

    Yes, Lawd… it was all about Jada getting banged out on the cash register by Allen Payne! A country love story with great performances from Pinkett, and especially Allen Payne, who I thought would definitely rise to fame, but his career never really took off. Still, this is one of the most underrated films from the nineties.
    Song: “If You Think You're Lonely” by K-Ci Hailey from Jodeci who was singing his boney ass off!
    Memorable Quote: Rat (Eddie Griffin), “Don’t touch the hair!”
    Grossed: $20,851,52

    5. Soul Food (1997)

    While I liked many of the urban gang films in the early nineties, simply because of a good plot, by the time we hit ’97, everyone was tired of it. Soul Food was perfect timing, the story of a middle class black family struggling with death, love, and relationships. Also, Vivica A. Fox pre the surge!
    Song: “We're Not Making Love No More” by Dru Hill
    Memorable Quote: Teri (Vanessa Williams), “Fuck the family! The family fucked my husband!”
    Grossed: $43,700,855

    4. Love Jones (1997)

    **sigh** Don’t you just love Love Jones? This was the diversity I loved about black nineties films. Sure, you had the gangster films but here was this “melancholy” (I hated when he said that!) romantic comedy, staring Nia Long, the black film darling of the nineties, and an officially grown Larenz Tate. Love Jones gave you faith in your own failed relationships, wondering if you will ever get a second chance with the one who got away.
    Song: “Sweetest Thing” by Lauryn Hill and “Hopeless” by Dionne Farris.
    Memorable Quote: “This here, right now, at this very moment, is all that matters to me. I love you. That's urgent like a motherfucker."
    Grossed: $12,782,749

    3. Set It Off

    Four young women exhausted with the striking poverty of their neighborhood decide to rob a bank. Probably the best acting of Jada Pinkett and Vivica A. Fox’s career, we were also introduced to how good Kimberley Elise can whine on the spot, and of course Queen Latifah tonguing a woman… just acting of course. Set It Off is an amazing film, well written, and still a good watch today.
    Memorable Quote: Frankie, “I am here at 8:20 sharp every morning and I work my ass off until quitting time. Yesterday, I counted $240,000 by hand for you! That's how you should KNOW! I mean, COME ON! This is just not right! I nearly got blown away in your tired ass fucking bank, and you're gonna fire me?
    Song: “Don't Let Go (Love)” by En Vogue
    Grossed: $41,590,886

    2. Boyz ‘N The Hood

    This movie (and New Jack City, but Boyz 'N The Hood was much more emotional) started the whole urban gangster era of the nineties. Regardless of how many people are shot, how many times the words bitch or nigger are used, I still think it’s a flawless film. And Lawwwwwwwwwd, when Ricky got shot, you would’ve thought the people in theater I was at knew Ricky in real life -- the sobs were echoing!
    Song: “Me & You” by Tony! Toni! Tone'!
    Memorable Quote: Furious, “I'll tell you why. For the same reason that there is a liquor store on almost every corner in the black community. Why is it that there is a gun shop on almost every corner in this community? Why? They want us to kill ourselves.”
    Grossed: $57,504,069

    1. Eve’s Bayou

    The mystical story of a Louisiana family and their young daughter Eve, whose world is shook up when she sees her father cheating on her mother. For me, one of the best black films of all time and, again, viciously ignored by every major awards show. Maybe the other films were too violent or too “urban” (whatever!), but Eve’s Bayou was brilliantly done, perfectly acted with Lynn Whitfield, Samuel L. Jackson and Debbi Morgan. How did Dreamgirls get Oscar nods and Eve’s Bayou didn’t?
    Memorable Quote: Mozelle (Debbi Morgan), “Life is filled with goodbyes, Eve, a million goodbyes, and it hurts every time. Sometimes, I feel like I've lost so much, I have to find new things to lose. All I know is, there must be a divine point to it all, and it's just over my head. That when we die, it will all come clear. And then we'll say, ‘So that was the damn point.’”
    Song: No song needed! But, there was a great song on the soundtrack called “A Child With The Blues” by Erykah Badu.
    Grossed: $14,842,388

    Honorable mentions: Dead Presidents, Waiting To Exhale, Straight Out of Brooklyn, New Jack City, The Five Heartbeats.

    All box office numbers taken from boxofficemojo.com.

    Labels: ,

    Posted by Clay :: 1:28 AM :: 21 comments

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